CASE STUDY: Creating an Extension of the Reading Experience

Client: Jane Porter

Jane has always made a concerted effort to bring in a lot of fun content to her site. She regularly posts to her blog, adds oodles of snapshots and interview links, and she keeps her active events schedule up to date. Her readers feel a real connection with her as an author and person. But it’s easy to lose the books in all that, and Jane is great about providing one or more Extras to accompany each book. Whether it’s an Egyptian recipe to support the setting of Harlequin title King of the Desert, Captive Bride, or a photo album from the movie set of Flirting With Forty, Jane delivers additional content to support the reading experience.

When Jane redesigned her site with us in 2005, she had two specific goals in mind. The first was straightforward and exciting: to visually re-brand her site in conjunction with her new career trajectory into Trade Paperback Fiction. For us, that was straightforward.

The second goal was the challenge: how to provide value-add for this new audience. Instead of books that would have a one-month shelf life (Harlequins), her books would be on shelves for years and potentially go into multiple printings. How to provide extras that would keep giving?

First we tackled the value-add content that would be interesting and meaningful regardless of whether the reader had read the book yet. And we went big. Lots of photos from book events and extra book-related content — content that was instantly accessible.

With each book we got more streamlined, adding smarter in terms of timing, and choice of features to support and enhance the Jane Porter reading experience: Recipes of cocktails the characters might drown their sorrows in, fun things to do if you travel to where the book is set, a fictitious interview with the characters… These easily accessible are highlighted throughout Jane’s book pages with several bright and fun headers (two examples below), and a visual cue: Catch this FUN Book Extra!

But it was one feature in particular that gave a particularly valuable bang for the buck: READER GUIDES. These content-rich downloadable pdfs were displayed on the book pages in abbreviated forms, so as not to be immediately overwhelming. (Use these links to see the readers guides for Mrs. Perfect, Odd Mom Out, Flirting With Forty, and The Frog Prince). This value-add feature ended up having a wonderful extra effect: it opened more communication between Jane and not just individual readers, but book groups. And it provided readers with a means to continue to experience the book they had just read, whether they used them in a book group setting or not.

Post-launch, in her own words (and the words of others):
“The feedback has been great,” Jane says. “Readers have told me they like my guides because it gives them a launching point for discussing my books. My guides are on the long side, too, with an average of twenty questions, so there can be a wide variety of questions hopefully leading to a variety of discussions. Not all questions will appeal to everyone and I don’t expect readers to go through the guide from point A to point B but rather to jump around. I think of it as ordering tapas, lots of little plates to share. In the case of my reading guides, there are lots of different questions so everyone can focus on an aspect of the book that they liked.”

Author Stephanie Tyler (new site coming soon from Waxcreative) summed it up quite well when she used Jane’s Readers Guides as a segue into discussing the online visitor experience and how it tied back to the books. “I love the way Jane Porter‘s site has all the little boxes and extras,” Stephanie said admiringly. “You’re never done visiting that site – there’s always some little hidden link or feature to discover.”

Audience connection accomplished.

Jane Porter is the author of twenty-four novels and one novella, including Mrs. Perfect and Flirting With Forty (Airing in December in Lifetime). Please visit her at where you can catch excerpts (follow title links to read right now), a regularly updating blog, and of course, oodles of book extras, here, here, and here, for starters.

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